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England’s Nazareth - The Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham

Every Year some half a million pilgrims make their way to the small Norfolk village of Little Walsingham to worship at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It was in 1061 the Lady of the Manor of Walsingham, Lady Richeldis de Faverches, had a vision of the Holy Virgin in which she was instructed to build a replica of the Holy House in Nazareth , the house in which the Archangel Gabriel had told Mary that she would be the mother of Christ. The original house was just 13ft by 23ft and made of wood, later to be enclosed in stone.

An Augustinian Priory was established in 1153 to protect the shrine and to provide accommodation for the pilgrims. The Priory which is now in ruins remained a place of pilgrimage until its destruction in 1538 during the reformation.

During the course of the year over 10,000 pilgrims stay at the Anglican Shrine with most people attending on a pilgrimage organized by their local church either for a weekend or for three/four days midweek. Whilst the regular pilgrim programme runs throughout the season the Shrine also organisers  a number of special events that cater for particular groups.   

Each Spring the Children’s Pilgrimage welcomes children aged between 7 and 11. The children take over the whole shrine and a special programme is provided to cater for their particular needs. For young people of secondary school  age, the Youth Pilgrimage is held each July/August. The young people camp out in a field near the village, and a wide and varied programme is organised which includes worship, live music, workshops and special events.

The largest event in the Shrine’s calendar is the National Pilgrimage which takes place in the Abbey grounds on the Bank Holiday Monday at the end of May. This is a big jamboree which is attended by many thousands of people. The Pilgrimage for Healing and Renewal takes place on the August Bank Holiday Monday and celebrates the healing dimension of England’s Nazareth. This is a gentle, moving event which is very special to many people, especially those who live with pain, sickness or disability.

St. John’s Annual Pilgrimage

St. John’s has a long tradition of pilgrimages to the Shrine. In 2015 it was again conducted over the last weekend of September and and yet again Norfolk was bathed in sunshine. The programme under the theme ‘Mary Life-Giving Spring’ was designed for parochial as well as corporate devotions.

Friday: Starting at St. John’s at midday with a short service concluding with a blessing and sprinkling before our departure for the Shrine. In the evening after dinner we met in the Barn Chapel for a parish Mass following which we made our first visit to the Holy House.

Saturday: The morning was set aside for parish activities firstly following the outside Stations of the Cross before offering our personal and parish intercessions in the Holy House. The afternoon was free providing relaxation although most pilgrims took the opportunity to explore the village before returning for the Concelebrated Pilgrimage Mass.

After the evening meal we returned to the Shrine Church for the address before participating in the hi-light of the evening the Candlelit procession of our lady around the grounds of the Shrine. This service concluded with the exposition of the Sacrament being placed on the altar after which pilgrims were able to receive the ministries of the laying on of hands and or anointing, or to make there confession.

Sunday: Along with the other pilgrims we joined the parishioners at St. Mary’s Walsingham for a concelebrated Mass in the Parish Church . After lunch our final afternoon began with Sprinkling at the Well, followed by the procession of the Blessed  Sacrament through the grounds before returning to the Shrine Church for Benediction. The pilgrimage concluded with corporate last visit to the Holy House.

Pilgrimage is about the whole of our life, the social and spiritual sides of our nature are involved. Going on ‘pilgrimage' is very different to making a ‘retreat', whether its participating in group or corporate liturgies or enjoying a leisurely stroll to the sea at Wells next the Sea or at the end of the day relaxing over coffee or a glass of wine in the company of our fellow pilgrims.

People attend Walsingham for many different reasons. For some of us it has been a place we have visited over most of our Christian lives. It remains a place for both old and new, a place of peace and natural beauty. It is also a place where perhaps we have found the veil between heaven and earth so very thin.

The 2017 pilgrimage will take place between the 22nd and 24th September and an initial 20 places have been reserved. Accommodation will be on a full board basis commencing on the Friday PM and concluding mid afternoon on the Sunday. Cost: Adults £130.00, Children (Age 5 - 16) £78.00, Under 5’s free. Reserve you place now with Ray Hotson the organiser. A deposit of £30 should accompany your booking.


This annual pilgrimage is a great blessing to all who make the journey to pray in that holy place. Have a word with folk who have been before if you are unsure about whether you might value the experience. (Almost everyone does…)

2017 Pilgrimage

The Family Pilgrimage takes place in November. While following the structure of the pilgrimage, there are events and activities for people of all ages. At the end of November, Adoremus, a special weekend for young adults (aged 18-30) takes place.

Pilgrimages to Walsingham was revived in 1922 when the vicar of Walsingham Fr Alfred Hope Patten restored the devotion by placing an image of our Lady in the parish church. In 1931 the image was translated to the newly built Holy House around which the present day Shrine Church was constructed.